Life is But a Dream, discusses her book, her journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.
DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about Life is But a Dream?
CHERYL SHIREMAN: My first novel, Life is But a Dream, is about a woman who is going through a tough time in her life. Her marriage is falling apart and her only daughter is leaving for college. To make matter worse, because her husband lost his job, they also lost their home. Struggling to redefine her life, she goes to an isolated lake cabin. The novel is about the devastating consequences of depression, the commitment of marriage, and ultimately, about the strength of the human spirit.
It was published just a little over three months and on the morning of April 28th was #3 on Amazon’s Movers and Shakers list! Near the end of April my sales jumped dramatically. Thank you readers!
DAVID WISEHART: How do you develop and differentiate your characters?
CHERYL SHIREMAN: I like to think about a character’s background. Why do they think and act in the way that they do? What makes them tick? Once I begin to explore and develop a character’s past, I begin to have a better understanding of their personality. Without that sort of understanding, I think it is impossible to create realistic characters.
DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?
CHERYL SHIREMAN: A woman with a Kindle, a Nook, and the desire to add to her paperback collection! Ha. Actually, I think my ideal reader is a woman who likes to read about “ordinary” women (is there such a thing?) in extraordinary circumstances.
DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?
CHERYL SHIREMAN: I started scribbling terrible stories and poems as a teenager and somewhere in my twenties turned to novels. Through the years, the one thing that has remained constant is my love of writing and the written word. Through marriage, the birth of three spectacular children, divorce, my second marriage, and graduate school, my love of writing has remained constant. I came close to getting a couple of books published, but ultimately, those fell through. Not long after I finished my novel, Life is But a Dream, I came across an article about independent publishing. It explained how Karen McQuestion published several novels (quite successfully!) as ebooks on Kindle. I started researching that possibility immediately. Within 48 hours I submitted my novel. Within another 24 hours the book was available as an ebook through Kindle. In another few weeks it was available on Nook and as a paperback through Amazon. I started getting “fan” emails from readers (that is still hard to get used to) and emails from other writers who were inspired by my story. This month only, the book’s third full month of publication, it sold over 1000 copies—just on Kindle! Every month, my sales have been increasing. What’s NOT to love about independent publishing? I hope that my story will encourage other writers to give this relatively new venue a try. I believe it is nothing short of revolutionary. The publishing world will never be the same. It is a very exciting time to be a writer.
DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?
CHERYL SHIREMAN: It begins with an idea—usually a character in a given situation. What if a certain kind of person was in a certain situation? What would they do? How would they act? What would they think? To get the answers to those questions, I start thinking about their past. What kind of childhood did they have? What type of trauma might they have endured? What hardships have they faced? What makes them unique? What makes them interesting? If they could erase one day from their life, what day would they choose and why? I recently wrote a non-fiction workbook entitled, Character Profile for Fiction Writing: How to Make Your Characters Come to Life (available as a paperback through Amazon) that is full of these kinds of questions. Once I begin answering these sorts of questions, my characters start to evolve and the storyline and sub-plots begin to emerge.
DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?
CHERYL SHIREMAN: John Steinbeck for his brilliant writing, his courage to try so many different genres, and his wonderful words on writing and the writing life. If you are a writer and you have not read Steinbeck: A Life in Letters or The Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters—you simply must. Elizabeth Berg also inspires me with the way she describes ordinary people in common situations so beautifully. And she does so in such a way that appears effortless.
DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?
CHERYL SHIREMAN: That is a tough question. Three novels come to mind. But if I had to choose, I guess I would say Gone With the Wind. I would have enjoyed doing all of the research on the Civil War and the traditions and dress of the era. And who would not want to create a character as memorable and fun as Scarlett O’Hara?
DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?
CHERYL SHIREMAN: Both Life is But a Dream and Broken Resolutions were featured on the Indie page of Free Book Fridays. I have found them to be great to work with and I am excited that they are now featuring an Indie page in addition to their great traditionally-published selections. I have done some interviews and written a few articles for various online venues. I also have a website and a blog on that website about writing and independent publishing (http://cherylshireman.com/).
DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?
CHERYL SHIREMAN: Why not? There is no “downside” to this choice. If you can do your own cover design and editing, it will cost you very little—less than twenty dollars to order your “proof” to review. If you sell a book, you and Amazon make money. Simple as that.
DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?
CHERYL SHIREMAN: Take your time on rewriting and editing. Give copies of your book to your friends and ask them to read it and circle the typos for you. No matter how great your editing skills, I believe it is impossible to catch all of the typos in your own work. Ask for help. Choose a great cover and a great title. Write an exciting and compelling book description for marketing. There is definitely an art to writing these descriptions. When I began, my book descriptions were very long and boring. Study the descriptions of some of your favorite authors and learn from them. Join Kindleboards and “hang out” at the Writer’s Café. You will learn a lot and they are a great group of writers and readers who are always ready to help out a newbie.
DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.
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